What’s your story? Part 2

What's your story?

Then, Junior High happened…

What’s your story? The second chapter of my story begins in Junior High. As loved and accepted as I felt in my early years, everything changed somewhere between 6th and 8th grade. I guess that’s probably the case for most of us.

What is it that changes as we enter the pre-teen and teenage years? In a word: PUBERTY. Some of us remember it well. Some of us lock Junior High memories deep in some dungeon of our psyche we hope never again sees the light of day. OK, that’s a little dramatic but, seriously, if there are two or three years of our lives we would never go back to for all the money in the world, they usually happened between about 11 and 14 years old.

Not only does puberty unleash hormones that make every day feel like the best and worst day of our lives. We also begin to traverse new needs and desires that expose us to dark places we never before knew existed. My dark place was, in a word: abandoned.

I don’t know why I felt abandoned, exactly. I think it’s just the way I interpreted the things that happen as my social world changed. Sure, my parents still loved me, but they had to, right? It didn’t help that I was big. Really big. That made me the target of something in the neighborhood of bullying. It didn’t help that if you put an “F” in front of my name it conveniently became “Fatwell.” Wow. That hurt just now as I typed it.

I felt alone. It broke me. I not only felt unloved. I also felt unloveable. Weird for a white kid in the suburbs with a solid family, right? Probably so, but that didn’t make it any less real.

Then, there was my youth pastor…

Then, there was my youth pastor. Every week when I showed up to church, he showed me he cared about me. He didn’t reject me. The nickname, “Fatwell,” never escaped his lips. I know that doesn’t sound like much thirty years later, but it changed me.

There was a day in eighth grade. I had run to sin to make me feel better. (Don’t ask. None of your business.) My abandonment was compounded by guilt. That day I realized my youth pastor’s love and acceptance for me must come from Jesus. I decided that day to quit feeling abandoned and guilty. It was time for my little-kid faith to grow up — to quit being victimized by the dark places inside myself and start following Jesus.

As I committed my life to Christ in an every-day kind of way, I realized he had become my constant companion. Prayer began to be a continual conversation between my Savior and me. I realized I would never be abandoned because he would never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). I became hungry to read the Bible. Those were his words, and he meant them for me. He was the one who would deliver me from the dark places inside myself.

My whole life became about Jesus. I’m pretty sure my friends got tired of hearing how he tied into every part of life. It was like I had become some kind of philosopher-monk who saw every relationship and circumstance as a neon sign pointing to the incredible reality of a God who loves us and wants us to know him.

But, there was still tension…

But, there was still tension. There were some hurt, fears and sins I just couldn’t escape. So, I ran to faith. I couldn’t beat the darkness, so I just kept running to Jesus because I knew somehow he accepted me. He wouldn’t ever abandon me. He promised. Some days it felt like that promise was all I had. I began to understand something I wouldn’t really know the word for until years later:

GRACE. That’s the title of Chapter 3…

What about your story?

When did your story change? How did it begin to grow up when you faced adversity?

Did you find maturity? Who was there to guide you as you looked for more from your faith?

Did you find God in your dark places? Did faith in Jesus become following Jesus?

I would love to hear your story! Tell me about it in the comments, or send me an email at info@crossroadsfortworth.org. Or, better yet, make a video and post it to YouTube or Facebook to tell us your story.

What’s your story? Part 1

What's your story?

When it comes to God, your story matters. Because, let’s be honest, your story colors how you see God. Over the next few weeks I’m going to blog and release some YouTube videos about my story. I will be asking questions to help you think about your story and how it relates to God. I’d love to hear from you via comments, email or, better yet, your own videos of your story because it’s great to tell your story in your own voice.

My story begins…

My story begins at church. I remember crawling around a toddler Sunday School class in my cowboy boots in Columbus, Ohio. Those are good memories. They are about friends and adults who cared about me and about Bible stories. I learned about Noah and his boat full of animals, Moses parting the Red Sea, Joseph and his coat of many colors, King David and Elijah who prayed for God to send fire down from heaven. All of these stories were about God’s greatness, and I learned them in an environment of genuine love and compassion.

Church was fun, too. I remember best friends. I remember pinewood derbies. I remember breakfasts and basketball practices where men from the church let me be one of the guys before I was even eight years old. Music was a big deal. I remember singing in children’s choirs. I remember performing musicals. I remember standing next to my dad listening to him sing songs of faith at the top of his lungs.

Then, there was sin. That’s the dark part of life. The brokenness of being human. When you grow up around church you don’t mind talking about it, though. It starts as something like a news headline: “King David disobeyed God.” Then, over the years it becomes more personal. I remember one Sunday in 1984 when as an eight-year-old it became real to me. As I sat next to my dad listening to our pastor teach, I realized that I had sinned. That day everything changed. I realized sin is a personal thing. I realized I would face God’s wrath for my sin unless I trusted in Jesus.

That’s when the rubber hit the road. All those stories I had been taught by all those caring adults converged on that moment. I felt the emotional weight of all the wrong things I’d done — from the mundane to the unspeakable. I knew it was time to decide. But, I’m a slow decider. (Even though I was only eight years old) For the next week I thought about the gravity of trusting in Jesus and choosing to follow him the rest of my life. I wanted it, but I knew it was a serious decision, so I took it seriously.

The following Sunday I decided it was time. At the end of the church service, I walked to the front of the church. One of the pastors led me in a prayer to tell God I was ready to trust in Jesus. And, everything changed for me.

Then, junior high happened, but that’s the next chapter…

What about your story?

Where did your story begin? Who started it with you?

How did you begin to think about God? Who was a part of that chapter of your life?

Where did your story intersect with God? Did you decide to trust in him? Why or why not?